10 Things You Didn't Know About U.S. Agent

Those who don't read comics first saw John Walker in "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" on Disney+, in which he replaced the retired Steve Rogers as Captain America before Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine recruited him as "a U.S. Agent." Those who do read comics, however, first saw him as the supervillain Super-Patriot in "Captain America" #323, before he replaced a still-active Steve Rogers as Captain America in "Captain America" #333, and finally adopted the alias of U.S. Agent in "Captain America" #354.

Prior to becoming Super-Patriot, Walker nearly joined the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation (UCWF), a superhuman WWE in Marvel Comics. Since serving as Captain America, Walker has been a sheriff for alien criminals dumped on Earth, seen during Marvel's "Maximum Security" crossover. He also served as the warden of the Raft, a maximum-security prison for superpowered criminals, after the patriotic supervillain Nuke cut off Walker's left arm and leg in "Thunderbolts" #142 (his limbs were restored with a Venom symbiote by a substitute Scarlet Witch named "Toxie Doxie" in "Dark Avengers" #185, because comics!).

But beyond his search for a purpose, and his succession of team allegiances, and his terrible costumes, who is John Walker? Let's find out.

He owes his origins to some familiar names from the MCU

In the comics, John Walker grew up idolizing his older brother, Mike, who died in Vietnam. So, John also joined the Army. However, because Walker served during peacetime, he couldn't live up to Mike's legacy. After his honorable discharge, John learned about the Power Broker (who's not Sharon Carter in the comics), who hired Dr. Karl Malus to supply people with superpowers, and ended up with super strength.

To repay his debt to the Power Broker, John secured a corporate sponsorship and staged fights against a trio called the Bold Urban Commandos, during which he criticized Captain America. The "BUCkies" pretended to attack him as extremist supporters of Cap. This led John and Steve to butt heads. After the Commission on Superhuman Activities made Steve report directly to them, Steve relinquished the Captain America role, and John took up the suit, shield, and title.

John learned to sling the shield from Taskmaster, a professional trainer of supervillains who's not quite the same person in the comics as he is the "Black Widow" film, although he has the same skull mask and the ability to mimic other fighters' styles perfectly. Further, during John's debut as U.S. Agent, he sparred against the Iron Monger armor, which MCU fans will remember Jeff Bridges' Obadiah Stane wearing in 2008's "Iron Man."

Family is a sore spot for him

His dead brother isn't the only family member whom John Walker mourns. After John became Captain America, one of the BUCkies, Lemar Hoskins, became the new Bucky, which left the remaining two BUCkies resentful enough to reveal John's secret identity during a press conference.

The Watchdogs, an extreme right-wing terrorist group, used this information to take John's parents hostage until he surrendered himself to them. When he did, the Watchdogs tried to kill him. In the ensuing fight, they killed John's parents, which caused John to snap and kill all the Watchdogs. John's psychosis over this loss was so strong that, after Steve reclaimed the Captain America mantle, John had to be hypnotized into believing his parents were still alive.

To protect John's remaining family, the government faked his assassination at another press conference (those never seem to go well for him) and gave him the cover identity of "Jack Daniels," as well as speech and behavioral therapy to erase the mannerisms of the man whom the public had seen "killed." John ultimately reclaimed his original name, but he couldn't save his sister Kate from becoming a supervillain — she adopted his old Super-Patriot alias in the five-part "American Zealot" story arc of 2021's "U.S. Agent" miniseries.

His sidekick's name was changed due to racial concerns

Just as John Walker made some name changes, so too did his sidekick, Lemar Hoskins. Because John was serving as the new Captain America, it made sense to writer Mark Gruenwald that Lemar should serve as the new Bucky.

As Brian Cronin reported in his Comic Book Legends Revealed column for Comic Book Resources, Lemar changed his codename to Battlestar after one of Gruenwald's Black coworkers called him out for his ignorance. Before he went on to co-found Milestone Media and produce and write the animated series "Static Shock," "Justice League Unlimited," and "Ben 10," Dwayne McDuffie wrote for Marvel Comics, and he pointed out to Gruenwald that "buck" was a slur against Black people.

Because Gruenwald was also the executive editor of Marvel Comics, McDuffie was worried that he might be fired. Instead, Gruenwald was horrified over his own unintended transgression, and worked with McDuffie to correct the error. "Captain America" #340 printed a letter from LaMont Ridgell, who also took Marvel to task for naming Lemar "Bucky." In the very next issue, Lemar adopted his new alias, "Battlestar," after an older man pointed out to Lemar how inappropriate a name "Bucky" was for a Black man who was the same age and size as the current Captain America.

He gave the Red Skull a literal red skull

Even as John Walker played Captain America, Steve Rogers remained active as a superhero, adopting the infringement-flouting alias of "The Captain" to operate independently in a costume that traded his traditional red, white, and blue for a color scheme of red, white, and black, with a matching Vibranium shield gifted to him by the Black Panther.

Although John fought Steve to a draw during their first fight — which John declared a win — John and Steve finally battled it out as Captain America versus the Captain in "Captain America" #350, which saw Steve score a decisive victory. That same issue revealed that the mysterious backer of both the Commission on Superhuman Activities and the Watchdogs, who intentionally brought about the deaths of John Walker's parents, was the Red Skull, who had cheated death by cloning himself a copy of Steve Rogers' body.

As the Skull gloated over the anonymity that having Steve's face would provide him (this was back when secret identities were still a thing), John struck the Skull with his shield, causing the Skull to inhale a dose of his own Dust of Death. Just as the Joker's Joker Venom twists people's faces into rictus grins, the Red Skull's Dust of Death turned his head into a literal red skull.

He's been on many teams, but he's not a team player

When U.S. Agent joined the Avengers in "West Coast Avengers" #44, it was like walking into "WandaVision" on Disney+. The Vision was disassembled by the government and rebuilt into an emotionless, luminous white form. Wanda Maximoff was suffering a nervous breakdown and building a false reality around herself, complete with magically conjured children. John (then Jack) compounded these crises by throwing his weight around as the legally mandated team liaison to the government, invoking the ire of the team rebel, Hawkeye. In the MCU, Clint Barton is a loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. In the comics, he's a reformed criminal who chafed under Steve Rogers' leadership early on as an Avenger. Naturally, Clint found a fellow hothead like "Jack Daniels" even more aggravating, and brawls were commonplace. 

Over the years, John has also joined the rosters of the Mighty Avengers and the Dark Avengers, as well as the Tony Stark-led Force Works team, which was composed mostly of former Avengers West Coast members.

When Namor re-formed the Invaders, his World War II team, in the "New Invaders" title from 2004 and 2005, John Walker took Steve Rogers' place until the team was exposed as another plot by the Red Skull, who was posing as Defense Secretary Dell Rusk, because no one in comics can do third-grade anagrams.

The two Captains made peace over one of Marvel's least-loved heroes

Frequently homeless, former UCWF wrestler Dennis "Demolition" Dunphy, aka D-Man, routinely tops lists of Marvel's worst heroes, but he's also made notable contributions to the careers of both Steve Rogers and John Walker as Captain(s) America.

Dunphy purchased super-strength from the same Power Broker who supplied it to John Walker, and later debuted his superhero identity as Demolition-Man in "Captain America" #328, which also saw him help Steve Rogers capture Karl Malus. When Steve was Captain America, D-Man ran his hotline. When Steve became the Captain, D-Man fashioned his red-and-black costume, which John adopted as U.S. Agent.

D-Man joined Steve and Battlestar on a mission to rescue John from the Flag-Smasher — in the comics, that's Karl (not Karli) Morgenthau — but D-Man appeared to die when he deliberately crashed his plane into Morgenthau's Arctic base, destroying the doomsday device within. That was in "Captain America" #349; it wasn't until "Captain America" #401 that John and future Captain America Sam Wilson, then still the Falcon, arrived at the Avengers' mansion with D-Man in tow, alive and well after being frozen in the ocean. Steve was so happy to see D-Man again that he shook John's hand and said, "Thanks. I owe you one, pal," to which John reacted by thinking, "Him — calling me 'pal'?!?"

Not-quite Captain America fought not-quite Godzilla

When Marvel Comics acquired the rights to Godzilla, he debuted in the Marvel universe with August, 1977's "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" #1, which saw him hunted by S.H.I.E.L.D. However, when Marvel later lost the rights to Godzilla, a suspiciously similar big lizard named Leviathan was retroactively inserted in his place, with enough alterations to avoid a lawsuit, and Doctor Demonicus, a recurring foe of the Avengers West Coast team, created genetically engineered clones of this Not-Zilla from its DNA.

John wasn't on hand for this fun, because it happened before he joined the West Coast Avengers, but in 2021's "U.S. Agent" #5 he battled a flying monster inadvertently created by S.H.I.E.L.D. from the same serum that created the American Kaiju, which John suggested that Doctor Demonicus had helped develop. Although the blue beast John fought shared Ghidorah's wings and double-tail, the Godzilla nod was explicit in the character of the American Kaiju, a genetically experimented-upon, uber-patriotic U.S. Army corporal named Todd Ziller.

He's never been blessed with fashion sense

John's Super-Patriot costume borrowed the worst parts of Captain America co-creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's Fighting American and Steel, DC's knockoff Captain America. John's best costumes, the classic Captain America uniform and the Captain outfit designed by D-Man, were both hand-me-downs from Steve, and the Captain outfit became U.S. Agent's longest-running signature look.

Given that the original costume for Demolition-Man blatantly aped Wolverine's cowl and Daredevil's tunic, it's not surprising that D-Man's design for the Captain felt so fitting for U.S. Agent, whose only leadership roles have been on derivative teams such as the "Dark Avengers," a group of supervillains who adopted the aliases of iconic superheroes, and Omega Flight, which likewise began as a team of supervillains devoted to destroying the Canadian superhero team Alpha Flight.

When John joined Force Works, his costume was redesigned by Tony Stark, and adopted absurd '90s tics like twin energy shields, oversized gauntlets, and a cowl that covered the back and sides of his head, his forehead, and the bridge of his nose, but left the rest of his face fully exposed. This look was immortalized by U.S. Agent's first action figure, which was tied to "Iron Man: The Animated Series," a show that ran from 1994 through 1996. In addition, while working for S.T.A.R.S. during "Maximum Security," John donned a riot police uniform whose helmet was reminiscent of the fascist dystopian future lawman Judge Dredd.

U.S. Agent has cycled through as many shields as costumes

John Walker's uniforms in "New Invaders" and his 2021 "U.S. Agent" miniseries rank among his least-horrible, but his "New Invaders" shield was his worst-designed. There, John's star-shaped shield had retractable spikes, and was decorated with the names of Americans who'd died at the hands of terrorists, plus a photo of John's parents. The plasma shield gauntlets John wore in "Force Works" were updated to a photon shield emitter, shaped like an eagle, during "Maximum Security."

Between those events, John wielded an eagle-shaped disc shield he was able to redirect in midair, via remote control. At one point, John threw the red-white-and-black Vibranium shield he'd received from Steve into the ocean, but just as his 2021 "U.S. Agent" miniseries saw him don a uniform not unlike Wyatt Russell's at the end of "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," so too was John handed a replacement for that shield in "U.S. Agent" #5.

John Walker is more extreme in the comics than the MCU

Speaking of Wyatt Russell's John Walker, while he and his comics counterpart both respect Lemar Hoskins wholeheartedly, John from the comics would be unlikely to utter what so closely echoed the Black Lives Matter motto: "You don't think Lemar's life mattered?" As John Walker's co-creator Mark Gruenwald explained in "Comics Interview" #54, "Steve Rogers is a poor northern urban boy. So, I'll make a guy from [the] rural middle-class south. [And] Cap has lofty ideals, so I'll make Super-Patriot be more realistic and more pragmatic."

Gruenwald further admitted in "Amazing Heroes" #146 that many readers wanted him to "Rambo-ize" Cap by making him more like Wolverine or the Punisher, to which he responded in-story in Captain America" #338, in which John's super-strength and lack of emotional control led him to inadvertently beat the supervillain Professor Power to death.

And yet, when fighting the Watchdogs as U.S. Agent, after they'd killed his parents, John also demonstrated his devout Christianity by repeatedly reciting to himself, "Thou shalt not kill." Indeed, while John was prepping for his first mission as Captain America, he was troubled to learn he shared the Watchdogs' stances "against pornography, sex education, abortion, the teaching of evolution — anything they believe to be immoral!"